Overbay prepared to shop his services
First baseman's future with the Blue Jays remains uncertain
TORONTO -- Lyle Overbay is looking forward to the free-agent process. The only problem is the Blue Jays first baseman does not know what to expect. After an up-and-down season, Overbay anticipates everything from multi-year offers to Minor League contracts to head his way.
"It's something I've never gone through. Hopefully, it'll be fun," Overbay said during the Blue Jays' final series of the season. "At the same time, you don't know. I'm not going to be disappointed if I don't get what I want. I don't expect a whole lot, but you never know."
Overbay also does not know if Toronto might be one of the teams calling with an offer. The Blue Jays do not have a clear-cut answer at first base if Overbay hits the open market as expected, but none of the team's internal options are void of question marks.
One certainty is that Overbay wants to see what type of offers might exist through free agency. If it looks like Toronto might take a step backward next season, and the club is only willing to give the first baseman a short-term deal, Overbay is not sure he has a future with the Jays.
"The situation has got to be right," Overbay said. "Obviously, it's not going to be a long-term deal. So, if they take a step back, I just don't see myself coming into that. It's not going to help them and it's not going to help me, because I'm not going to be part of the winning part of it.
"I think the offseason for them is going to be big to see what direction they go in. I think that's going to dictate a lot of it."
During this past season, the Blue Jays gave designated hitter Adam Lind some innings at first base to see how he responded to the position -- one he previously played in college. If Overbay is no longer in the picture, though, general manager Alex Anthopoulos is not sure Lind is a definite fit at first.
"We haven't seen him play the position long enough," Anthopoulos said. "I think he made strides, but at the same time you saw his inexperience as well. I think it was much too small a sample size to make a determination on that."
Other internal possibilities on the big league roster include Jose Bautista, though he brings more value in right field or at third base, and third baseman Edwin Encarnacion. It seems more likely, however, that Anthopoulos will explore the trade market or free agency for a new first baseman for 2011.
Earlier this year, it appeared as though youngster Brett Wallace -- acquired from the A's in a December trade -- was in line to replace Overbay at first base next season. That was before Toronto shipped Wallace to Houston in July in order to land outfield prospect Anthony Gose.
Anthopoulos said it was never a sure thing that Wallace would take over for Overbay.
"A lot was written about Brett at the time about being guaranteed the first base job," Anthopoulos said. "How many young position players come up and don't get sent down and stick? How many can you really count on?"
Anthopoulos added that Overbay's strong finish to 2010 did not necessarily alter the club's future plans for first base, even without a clear answer for the position.
"It's one of those things that we evaluate it," Anthopoulos said. "We certainly have an opening at first base, because Lyle is a free agent. It's definitely a good thing that he improved on his performance and that he played well, but I don't know if it was going to change things a lot one way or the other for us."
|"I think the offseason for [the Blue Jays] is going to be big to see what direction they go in. I think that's going to dictate a lot of it."|
|-- Lyle Overbay|
The 33-year-old Overbay finished the season hitting .243 with 20 home runs and 67 RBIs for the Blue Jays, who signed him to a four-year contract in 2006, after his breakout showing for Milwaukee in 2004. Much of Overbay's positive production came over the final four months.
Over his final 105 games, Overbay hit at a .267 clip with a .355 on-base percentage and a .483 slugging percentage, collecting 16 homers, 27 doubles and 48 RBIs over that stretch. That followed a 49-game run in which the veteran first baseman hit just .197/.276/.331 with four homers, 10 doubles and 19 RBIs.
During that early slump, many Blue Jays fans vented their frustrations with Overbay at home, lashing out with vicious chants and comments that wore on the first baseman. At times, the verbal beating he took at Rogers Centre confused and overwhelmed Overbay, adding another layer to his struggles.
"If I strike out with the bases loaded," Overbay said, "do what you want. Do what you will, you've paid your money. But it irritated me when you see a Blue Jays jersey on this guy and he's sitting there just screaming and yelling at you. It's like, 'What's your agenda?' That's what bothered me about it.
"It was tough. You don't want to go through that. That's the last thing you want to do is fail for these people that are coming out and expecting you to win and expecting you to do things."
As the calendar flipped to June, though, Overbay identified a difference between how he was using his front leg compared to his mechanics in 2006. He and hitting coach Dwayne Murphy had already fixed his swing path, and the new adjustment with his footwork allowed Overbay to cover more of the plate.
That led to a second-half turnaround that has brought a little more comfort as he heads into the offseason. Even if the only offers out there are incentive-laden, or of the Minor League variety, Overbay is confident that he can prove that he can still contribute as an everyday first baseman in the big leagues.
"I'm hoping that teams will want you and give you a Major League contract," Overbay said. "If I didn't do anything this year and I was continuing on doing [poorly], then I'd have to go out and prove myself, which I'm completely fine with, especially now that I know I can do it.
"I don't know what happened those first two months. It's something that hopefully I'll never have to go through again."